We caught up with Partner and Head of Family, Zoe Tansley, to discussed some of the commonly asked questions at this time of year.
Q: Will the Covid-19 Health crisis impact on my contact with my child at Christmas?
This year has been a particularly challenging one for many separated parents as they have tried to manage arrangements for caring for their children across two households. That said, guidance to family practitioners and the family court is clear: despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, children of separated parents should, in the main, continue to move between both households. As such, Christmas contact should not generally be effected by the health crisis.
Q: My usual contact with my children does not fall on Christmas Eve, Christmas day or Boxing Day this year. Does that mean I won’t get to see them over those special days of the festive period?
The general approach of the court is that normal contact arrangements will often need to be suspended or adapted to enable contact between a child and their non-resident parent over the festive period and the main days in the Christmas calendar. It is important that children get to spend time with both their maternal and paternal family during this period. The fact that these are not your normal contact days should not therefore automatically prevent you seeing your children during some or all of those days.
Q: My former partner and I have been separated for several years and they will not agree to the children spending Christmas Eve overnight with me. I would like to pursue that. Do you think that I am being reasonable?
In my experience our local family courts are increasingly of the view that children should have the benefit of waking up on Christmas morning in both parent’s homes. A common approach is for one parent to have Christmas Eve overnight to Christmas Day with the other parent having that time with the children the following year ,on a rolling basis. As such, I do not think your request is an unreasonable one.
Q: When should I raise Christmas contact arrangements with my former partner?
2020 has been an unprecedented year with ever changing restrictions in terms of how we can live our day to day lives. It is therefore somewhat unsurprising that discussions between many separated parents regarding Christmas arrangements have taken place later this year than they ordinarily would have. That said, post pandemic, early discussions are key to ensuring there is time to agree arrangements or alternatively, to seek legal advice regarding the matter.
Q: If my former partner and I can’t agree Christmas arrangements, do I have to apply to the court for an order to determine this?
Applying to the court is one option, however such an application should be treated with some caution as it can be very costly should you wish to have legal representation. A court application is not a quick means of resolving the matter and can take a number of months to conclude, particularly in the current circumstances where the pandemic is placing significant pressure on the court system. Should you seek legal advice regarding Christmas contact your solicitor will no doubt discuss mediation with you as a possible means of trying to resolve the matter. Mediation is a process where an independent third party would assist you and your former partner in reaching resolution. If mediation and attempts to resolve matters through your solicitor fail, an application to the court may be the only means of determining your Christmas contact for future years.